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Who will step into Robert Kubica's shoes?

We investigate the possible replacements for F1 driver Robert Kubica

Posted Feb 09, 2011 by Shaun Edwards

Robert Kubica making progress in recovery

As you will no doubt have seen Robert Kubica, the first Polish Formula 1 driver, suffered a horrific rally car crash on Sunday morning in Italy which left the driver with a partially severed right hand. The driver is thankfully making, what doctors describe as, “encouraging progress in his recovery” but the search is on to find an immediate replacement for the Polish driver as he looks to be out of action for a lengthy period of time. What with the 2011 season start in Bahrain just around the corner, the F1 team really don’t have long.

Bruno Senna, Vitantonio Liuzzi or Nick Heidfeld are likely to be Robert Kubica’s replacement.

Kimi Raikkonen was even mooted as a replacement for Kubica as Raikkonen was linked to a return to Formula 1. However Renault ruled out the possibility of the 2007 champion replacing Kubica confirming that the three drivers in the running are Liuzzi, Heidfeld and Senna.

Kubica told the media yesterday that he is slowly coming to terms with his injuries but I doubt there is anyone more frustrated at being out for the season than Kubica given his shining performance at the testing session in Valencia where he chalked up the fastest lap time of the three day event.

Who should replace Kubica?

It’s thought that Kubica will be out for the whole season and certainly even longer before he is really back on form – Renault understandably need to find a suitable replacement if they are in with a chance of reigning supreme this year.

Let’s look at the drivers in the frame to replace the Polish driver:

Bruno Senna is the baby of the bunch at 27 years of age and with only 18 races under his belt. What the Brazilian lacks in age and experience he certainly makes up for in raw potential. Senna is the reserve driver but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be automatically stepping into Kubica’s shoes.

Senna has been in this position before in 2009 when he was due to be the second driver for the Honda F1 team were it to make an appearance on the grid (following the financial problems the team faced) before Rubens Barrichello announced his return to the team. I have a feeling that Senna will be sidestepped once again with Renault choosing another more experienced driver.

Senna himself had said previously that he wouldn’t join Renault-Lotus F1 for sentimental reasons because his uncle Ayrton Senna, the three time F1 champion, took his first win with the Lotus F1 team.

How about Vitantonio Liuzzi? This Italian has had six seasons, 63 races and not a single podium appearance – not exactly much of a record so I would be very surprised if Renault opt for Liuzzi. He showed promise in the 2010 season but glory never really materialised and having been dropped by Force India for this forthcoming season in favour of Paul di Resta, Luizzi is looking distinctly like factory seconds.

Nick Heidfeld seems to be the front runner to fill Kubica’s shoes after the German was in talks with Renault yesterday morning. It’s unclear why the 33 year old is favoured given his fairly lacklustre career to date which saw him race 174 times in 10 seasons without a single win and only 12 times on the podium. That isn’t exactly an impressive success rate and pales in comparison to Kubica’s one win and 12 podium appearances in just 76 races.

Nevertheless, my money would be on Heidfield given that he has more experience and a marginally better performance than the other potential replacements.

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